Participants struggle completing drug court with COVID-19 precautions

Participants struggle completing drug court with COVID-19 precautions

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Participants are having trouble completing Potter County’s Drug Court program with all the COVID-19 precautions they have to take.

“To see so many people fail, you know right now there’s two of us left, there was thirty when COVID started, it’s really sad to see all that happen,” said an anonymous participant in the Potter County Drug Court.

For 10 years, the Potter County Drug Court has been a beneficial way of keeping repeat drug offenders out of jail.

The director says it has been difficult lately though with the limited ways they contact offenders.

After they started meeting again in July, more cases forced them to take the same safety measures they did earlier this year.

“You see people that make tremendous progress and then you see them start to backslide and there’s just not much that we can do now, and you know that’s what is frustrating,” said Terry Easterling, director of adult probation for Potter County.

Staff thinks one of the reasons for all these relapses are the lack of face to face contact.

They would usually make weekly visits with probation officers, a judge and other participants in the program.

Now, everything has been done through phone calls.

“You learn your clients, and you learn their body language and their facial expression, and we missed out on that on phone contact. You couldn’t tell if they were struggling as much as I would of, face to face,” said local probation officer Mollee Vogler.

Adding to the limited face to face contact they’ll receive from all parties in the program, they aren’t able to get drug tested.

Normally to check if any drugs were in someone’s system, participants would come to the ninth floor of the Santa Fe building to take a swab test.

“In the program, they usually have the accountability of having to submit to a drug test every time they see me for their office visits and that was taken away,” said Vogler.

Staff is currently looking for ways to make sure more people stay in the program this time around.

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